Sunday, November 16, 2008

Job--Patron Saint of the Purple Martyrdom

The other day a friend of mine shared a book about Job with me. While she didn't remember what it was about, exactly, she remembered that she really liked it. I, however, have been a friend of Job for a little over 31 years, so I was happy to have another opportunity to renew that friendship.

This was not like any book on Job I'd ever read. There were almost as many things about which I disagreed as there were things I agreed. I'm not going to go into why, because it isn't important at this point in time. What is important is that God brought me back to Job as I continue to process the Purple Martyrdom. And even in those areas where I disagreed, the Spirit was bringing deep things to the surface.

The first one came in chapter five, where the author stated that the nature of worship is praise in pain. Job knew to praise God in the midst of his pain. He didn't speak about God ... he spoke to God. And while it took many chapters worth of time, God spoke back to Job. Because they had a relationship.

We know that Job was in deep pain -- from his property loss, the deaths of all 10 of his children, and the sores that covered him from head to toe. And this is before the pain brought on by his "friends" ... we'll get to them another day.

At this point in my notes I have two things written:
  1. Job is the patron saint of the purple martyrdom.
  2. Pruning does not just cut off diseased or dead wood. It also removes growth that will detract from the health or fruitfulness of the plant.
I know pruning from experiences with pruning my precious roses and from my experience as a precious "rose" being pruned by a merciful and gracious and loving Papa.

Pruning a beloved plant is an exercise in "severe mercy" (how many times has this phrase of C.S. Lewis found its way into my thoughts in the 29 years since I first read Sheldon Vanauken's book by that title?). As severe as death to the majority of the new growth -- as merciful as preserving the health and shape of the bush and the size of the cane left to bear bigger blossoms.

What to value more: sheer quantity of rose blooms or better quality rose blooms -- not to mention sustainability and control of disease and pests.

Anyone who really loves their roses must prune. Period. But they must do it at the proper "kairos" time and take their "chronos" time doing it.

If someone were to observe me pruning my roses, they would see me down on the ground, looking at every single cane:
  1. was there disease?
  2. what direction will the new growth take?
  3. what is the desired shape for the bush this year?
  4. how much cane should be left?
  5. what canes must be removed completely?
And I would talk to them (there is more than a smidgen of hobbit in Abi) about my choices ... and mourn the deep cuts requiring loppers and the cane buds knocked off in a gentle brush of a finger. But I would always lavish praise and hope for the beauty each rose would bring to the garden later.

There are few things more stunning than a rose bursting with blossoms.

There are few things more stark and ugly than a pruned rose bush.

But you can't have the first without the second. And a true lover of roses knows this well.

* * * * * * *

God was proud of the prize "rose" named Job. And as beautiful as his righteousness was and as fragrant as his life was ... God loved Job enough to allow the ultimate in "severe mercy" pruning -- everything but his life (and his wife ... and let's not beat up on her too much -- everything Job lost was something she was mourning the loss of as well).

And while the pruning was harsh, the growth God brought to bear was unbelievable. Not only were all Job's losses returned (with interest), his 10 new children were even more blessed than the first 10! But more than this, God came to answer Job. And even though God did not actually answer Job, Job felt more than answered. He gained wisdom and insight -- and shared it with us:

I know that you can do everything, and that no purpose of yours can be withheld from you. ...I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. ...I have heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you. Therefore I abhor myself; and repent in dust and ashes.
(Job 42:2, 3, 5-6)
* * * * * * *

The Gardener prunes the rose -- because the rose cannot perceive its situation aright, nor can it take up shears to make the proper cuts. It must submit to the hands of the one who chose it and planted it and nurtures it so that it can be what it is meant to be -- beautiful -- and do what it is meant to do -- bring honor and glory to the Gardener.

Papa is the Master Gardener ... and this wee abbess trusts completely, even when the pruning shears are being sharpened....



Brad said...

Insightful, V. Abbess. Thanks ...

It puts me in mind of a tour with a vineyard manager a decade or so ago. As she strolled with us through the rows of vines, she'd point out various aspects of the care and nurture of grapevines.

One thing that stuck with me was how it took about 13 to 15 leaves to act as chlorophyll factories to produce the food needed to store in each cluster of grapes. If the vine leaves aren't pruned down to that number per cluster, then what happens is all the food goes into the leaves, creating a lush cape of green ... but leaves shrively little grapes.

So, do we want to look reeeeally great or do we want grapes? Pruning ... by the Master Vineyard Keeper ...

AbiSomeone said...

Thanks, Brad...

I've heard many good things about pruning grape vines, too. It really is important to understand the science involved. (God certainly gave Job quite the science lesson, eh?)

Gotta go for the grapes, bro, which are, by the way, purple.... ;^)

AbiSomeone said...

...hmmm, the centerpiece rose in my garden is purple!

...and I wonder why so many abbeys grow lavendar (which this abbess grows, too!)

There is something to this purple thing I've got going. :^)

AbiSomeone said...

...and of course, grapevines are embedded the very meaning and logo of CovenantClusters!

sonja said...

I am woefully behind in my blogging ... reading and writing.

The LightChildren and I had a conversation about Job the other day. I don't remember why. But due to the radioactive fallout from our church, the children have been resistant to all sorts of God talk ever since. OTOH, I think the time may have come to read some scripture together. And Job seems like a good place to start ... I think we'll use the Message since they will understand that the best (being 14 and 11).

Janet Woodlock said...

Hello there!

My garden just doesn't do roses... I can prune them all I like... but we have too much shade and not enough light. I've let a friend with a sunny aspect dig them all out... so they've all gone to a new home, replaced by azaleas, agapanthus, and some hard to kill drought resistant grassy thing (Spanish iris?).

I'm sure there's a good spiritual analogy there somewhere, but I've just finished writing thousands of words of exegesis, so my brain is quite beyond plumbing the metaphysical depths of light and soil type.

Sorry to hear of the radioactive fallout Sonia. (I noted a bit of toxicity on your blog the other day... probably just as well you'd closed off comments on the relevant thread or a certain someone may have had an uncharitable serve from me. Too much exegesis doesn't help my mood!!!!)

AbiSomeone said...

Greetings, Janet!

I hope that your brain cells have recovered some ... I know what you mean!

It goes without saying that if you do not have the right basic conditions met, all the proper pruning methodology will not get roses! I am happy that your roses have found a new home. ;^)

Blessings, all, as I go into Thanksgiving weekend wondering why I ate so much yesterday....

Janet Woodlock said...

Well, happy thanksgiving!

Yes thank you, my brain cells are back to their usual (which is, alas, somewhat vague) state!

It's Sooooo nice not to have the vague guilt of study hanging over me.

Now my head is clearer, it's pretty obvious though we need a good prune now and then, we need the "Light of the World" as our daily diet... like your roses, we get ill without occasional pruning, but we quickly die without the light.